This is an incredibly tenuous time in the Middle East. The Assad regime is killing its own citizens in Syria, Hezbollah has tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel, ready to be launched on orders from its patron Iran. Iran is racing toward nuclear capability in defiance of the world. The Muslim Brotherhood is in power in Egypt. The Arab Spring has created great uncertainty rather than pacifying the region. The U.S. has finally brought most of its troops home from Iraq, but Iraq’s democracy is tenuous at best and Iran continues to pull many strings within its long-time rival.
All this uncertainty has made Israel all the more a target of regional derision. Without the Mubarak regime to pacify Egypt, and King Abullah of Jordan if Jordan facing increased pressure to reform (i.e. become radically Islamic), Israel is increasingly alone. However, we know that Israel will ultimately do whatever it feels it has to do in order to protect itself.
It is not surprising that Israel told the U.S. that it is not going to update the U.S. as to its actions and intention. This way, Israel is not in a position of having to ask permission, and it’s clear that the Obama administration is not seen as having given a green light if Israel does decide to launch a pre-emptive strike. We call this having your cake and eating it, too. Diplomacy demands that we cannot openly support Israel bombing Iran, yet we continue to hope they will solve the problem for us.
Israel could face major blowback if it launches an attack, including tens of thousands of Hezbollah rockets, terrorist cells activated against it by Iran, etc. However, the biggest obstacle may be how the rest of the world and the UN react. The UN is already anti-Israel, China and Russia will never turn against Iran unless it is actually foolish enough to pre-emptively nuke the U.S. or Israel, and Europe has long disliked Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians (not to mention the pressure many countries would face from their ever-growing Muslim underclass). The U.S. is really Israel’s only ally, but the Obama administration does not believe it needs to make that clear, in fact, in many ways this administration has distanced itself from Israel. But the fact remains the Israel could face an existential threat if Iran gets the bomb.
America supports Israel because it has long been a lone Western-style democracy in a region of the world that is characterized by despotic regimes that are unstable and don’t respect human rights. Even with the Iraq “experiment” we are left with only one real ally in Middle East.
Global pressure continues to mount on Iran. You would think this would make it more difficult for them to justify the nuclear program to the Iranian people. The economy is straining and the sanctions are increasingly biting, but Russia and China, as well as Iranian puppet regimes, have been complicit in keeping the country afloat. The threat of military reprisal has kept the population at bay.
For there to be a peaceful outcome, the Ayatollahs will have to make the calculation that a nuclear program is not worth the costs, or that they won’t be able to placate the people. I do not see that happening. They look at North Korea a model—once it got nukes then the world had to take it seriously in a whole new way. The Ayatollahs currently look at the nuclear capability as an insurance card. A nuclear Iran will have no natural deterrent in the region. Russia is an ally of circumstance, and presents no threat. Iraq has been neutered and many of the highest officials are on the Iranian payroll. Afghanistan, and all the ‘stans for that matter, are a non-issue. Turkey is surprisingly disengaged. Israel will have to finally have to come out of the closet about its own nuclear arsenal just to ensure mutual annihilation.
The Iranian mentality is one of pride. They still think they are ancient Persia, the smartest, most advanced, greatest people in the world. Even if they never use the nukes, they will use them to bully their neighbors. They do not care about the West or Israel, and will attempt to act with impunity waving their nuclear Sword of Damocles.
The one hope outside of Israel stopping the Ayatollahs, and that is the people of Iran themselves. They made a half-hearted attempt with the Green Revolution in 2009, but unlike their brothers in revolution throughout the Middle East and Africa, they did not have the courage to see it through and do whatever it took to overthrow their government. Maybe they will look within themselves and unleash that pride and passion on their own despotic government rather than allow it set the entire Middle East aflame in nuclear fires. It would be a brutal and bloody civil war, but only then can the Iranian people deliver themselves (without Western or Israeli aid) from the evil their fathers inadvertent delivered the sons and daughters into when they replaced a terrible and corrupt Shah with a more corrupt, hypocritical, and unjust, theocracy.